The creative mind behind the Freeform series also talks about leaving stand-up, correcting the show’s autism, and why it will never make a special comedy about Netflix.
After recently ending a four-year life in Los Angeles, Josh Thomas is still trying to settle comfortably into a picturesque home in Melbourne to which he returned earlier in 2021.
The 33-year-old Australian creator and star of family drama Everything will be fine (Premiere of the second season on April 8 on Freeform and Hulu) drags American working days to a 17-hour time difference – and begins to take tribute. A few moments in the early April zoom, the stand-up comic shows the ergonomic keyboard he carries everywhere and a new stability chair that should ease the early morning on his back. “After a few days, I said, ‘Oh my God, it doesn’t hurt anymore,’ he says, bouncing slightly up and down. ‘Now only the other part of my back hurts.’
Clumsy and sympathetic, but always with sharp edges, Thomas’ latest effort is a sequel Please, I like it. The gay adult comedy, a critical favorite that aired in the state on the shut down Pivot, had multiple platforms in competition for his second act. And while Disney’s cable network Gen Z may seem like an unusual place for his often sarcastic humor and preoccupation with sexuality, Thomas suggests that everyone may be too scared to tell him to downplay it.
What inspired moving home?
Since it’s currently increasingly under control in Australia, I flew back after we finished filming the second season. From here I do post-production, so I get up at 4 in the morning. Everything is open and there is no COVID here, but I work American hours – so I’m too tired to leave the house. I’m single and I’m gay, so I always work around other people’s kids.
Everything will be fine is your first series entirely made in the USA. What is the biggest difference with television here?
Australian executives are much more direct. He will simply say, “This is not good yet.” The Americans will give you a lot of compliments. Then you will get off the phone, think about what they said and realize that they hated him. As if all these praises and then the last two words are “erase”. (Laughter.)
As for the notes, I’m impressed with how much gay sex you got on the air on a basic Disney-owned cable network. Does anyone ask them to prepare?
They like to be gay and are quite positive about sex. Look, I don’t have a lot of notes on gay stuff. You don’t want to be with me at the other end of the Zoom call and record intimacy scenes. Nobody wants to ruin their day like that. I have no children. I have nowhere to be. So I’ll stay on the phone. I’ll send an email. I’ll call the network. If you want to change the gay sex scene, you’re going to have a bad weekend.
One of your potential clients, Kayla Cromer, has autism. Since you’re the only show representing that community, you open up to criticism to get it right. How careful are you in telling these stories?
We don’t want to tell safe stories, do we? If you tell a new story, you don’t know how people will react. It is a constant state of ignorance. So what I’m doing is … I don’t care. People will react the way they will react.
So how do you react when there is criticism? I saw you get into this on Twitter with someone who was worried the show would “straight wash” the character.
Accusing me of a straight wash is the craziest thing. How unusual do you want these shows to be? (Laughter.) It’s such a good example of how you can’t live your life worrying about what people will think.
Your career started in stand-up, but you had your own show, Please, I like it, by the time you were 25 years old. What inspired the switch to TV?
I’ve been to this panel show before [Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation] it’s really popular here. But those were really weird things. Once my grandmother was poured a bucket of sour cream. You can watch it on YouTube if you want. My manager was the one who made me come up with a play for the sitcom script, but I really didn’t think anyone would let us do that.
You returned to stand up just before the pandemic. Will we ever see a special Netflix from you?
I started at 17 and I really loved it. But I took six years off before this last tour. In my twenties I just wanted people to look at me, but now I don’t desperately need that kind of attention. I will probably never do that again.
Going back after so much time was so hard. It’s like wearing wet bathing suits. There is something disturbing about that. I really prefer the control I have on the TV. Also, I just don’t care that I have to be in a good mood every night at 8 p.m.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the April 7 issue of the Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.